The incomparable Two Ronnies.

Full of eternal truths and incorrectnesses.

A conductor breaks silence on his Olympic role:

Because of various sensitivities the anthems are usually recorded anew for each games.

About a year before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics the Vancouver Symphony and I recorded over 100 national anthems, including two versions of the Kazakhstan anthem – we were told there was some uncertainty about which was correct. In some cases countries had sent their preferred versions – others just had to be procured or orchestrated. Some of the arrangements were very good indeed and some execrable. The Indian and Nepal anthems posed stylistic challenges but most were fairly straightforward. There were so many anthems with mini-fanfares and trumpet heralds that the brass had their work cut out.

I’m afraid the UK anthem sounded quite underwhelming in comparison with most others. Towards the end of the games I was in the UK and remember hearing the VSO playing ‘O Canada’ on the television in the bar of a Watford hotel when Canada won gold for hockey against the USA. We had used our traditional VSO arrangement in preference to that officially supplied – this is the same version we play on opening night every season.

As we recorded ‘O Canada’ there were dozens of cameras and journos in the hall. It was one of the earliest media events of the games:

Which conductor?

This one.

bramwell tovey2

From the rear cover of a forthcoming release:

Sophie Pacini is the new voice of the piano today. The charismatic Italian-German musician, a winner of multiple awards, is hailed as the eminent artist of her generation. Her interpretations of the great works of Liszt and Beethoven radiate the full spectrum of colours – combining breathtaking virtuosity with highly nuanced poetry of sound.’

Is there one word here that can be trusted?

Who writes this stuff?


The Estonian-Finnish violinist Anna Liisa Bezrodny tied the knot today with her long-term love, the cellist Jan-Erik Gusse Gustavsson.

We wish them every conceivable happiness.

anna-liise bezrodny

The great Indian classical musician Amjad Alī Khān has been refused a visa for Britain, where he has performed almost annually for 45 years.

He was due to give a concert at the South Bank Centre on September 18.

The sarod virtuoso, who is 70, tweeted that he is ‘shocked and appalled’.

So are we.

And ashamed to belong to a country that can capriciously slam the door on great artists.

In a further tweet he adds: ‘Extremely sad for artists who are spreading the message of love & peace.’


amjad ali khan

Please contact your MP to raise the injustice with the Home Office.


The pianist and conductor who died suddenly last month, aged 43, was widely loved and is sorely missed.

So friends are putting on a concert at the end of the month to share memories and celebrate his life.

Details here. Come one, come all.

lloyd arriola

Message from the One World Symphony:

The musical Tribute will include music from Beethoven’s Fidelio and Pastoral Symphony, Arvo Part’s Fratres (“Brothers”), Joan Tower, Lawrence Rush (one of Lloyd’s many friends), and Lloyd himself. During the “Fellowship” (potluck reception), the Bob Page Jazz Trio will serenade all the guests.
Like many musicians, One World Symphony’s Sung Jin Hong has been devastated and has been reeling from the unexpected loss of his dear friend Lloyd. With One World Symphony, Lloyd has performed as the featured soloist on Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in the sold-out Town Hall Debut and Ravel’s Piano Concerto. He was also the collaborative pianist for numerous auditions and rehearsals for many of our opera productions. 
Sung Jin has been working non-stop to reach out and gather artists to celebrate the life and spirit of Lloyd during this high summer. At this time, we’ll have more than 60 musicians at Lloyd’s Tribute and Fellowship. Many of our artists have shared their memories of Lloyd in the “Artists’ Opening Chords”:

The violinist Pekka Kuusisto had the BBC Proms in stitches when he did a spot of stand-up before his encores, followed by a Finnish folksong.

Pekka told the Helsingin Sanomat: ‘I’d never been to a Proms concert before, not even to listen. It was everything they’d said it would be. The Prommers engage with tremendous energy, and I decided, OK, let’s do this together.’

They should book him for the last night.

pekka kuusisto

Launched today, in English:

And here’s his first five-minute chat on Brahms’s first piano concerto:

More to come!


From our weekly diarist, Anthea Kreston of the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet:


artemis quartet new

The refugees in Germany play a large role in all of our lives – whether peripherally or immediate. It is a visible part of life, and a topic of conversation – running the gamut of opinions. The Artemis is playing a quartet concert in the fall to benefit a young program which brings music into the Berlin refugee housing villages, which is called Mit Mach Musik.  This program, begun just in April of this year, was founded and is run by a wonderful ex-pat American woman, who came here many years ago to immerse herself in the opera world. She did that and more – finding love here and raising a family, being involved with countless educational projects – an all-around engaging and effervescent grandmother.

I have always been involved in community outreach – I enjoy writing grants and getting in deep to discover what doors music can open with people in need. In inner-city Hartford, while a student, I designed and implemented a program which brought music into a home for abused children who were wards of the state. I also piloted a program which brought music to hospice for AIDS patients at the height of the epidemic. So, when I heard of this program, I naturally wanted to go see what it was all about.

I went to coffee with Pamela, and she brought materials and described the program. It has four locations – each with a separate focus. One is vocal, one upper strings, one winds, and one lower strings. One is at the decommissioned inner-city Templehof Airport, now home to 7,000 refugees and the former site of the Berlin Airlifts. Another is in a container village (containers refitted as homes, stacked three high and outfitted with windows and colorfully painted).  The program which I was going to observe was the upper strings, in the suburb of Potsdam, where 300 families are living in a decommissioned government building.  When you think family – please keep in mind that many families have 6 or more children.

This week was my first visit. I did not know what to expect, really, and was glad that Pamela came to pick me up so she could brief me more thoroughly as we drove. As we arrived, a security gate and call box were at the front of a walled, imposing (but beautiful and well-maintained) compound surrounding a three-story brick building. Pamela stated our purpose, and we were again screened verbally by the guard at the front door.

As we entered, a festive site greeted us – murals painted by children lined the stairwell.  The feel of the building was of a mix of secondary school and government office. Corridors with lines of doors to offices – behind each door, a full family was living. One aspect that is unique to this location is an area of communal kitchens on the top floor – in Templehof there is a cafeteria. Everything was spotless – the children all speak German (classes are required), people look healthy and well taken care of. These refugees have escaped terrors to find a country which is dedicated to helping them every step of the way.

I speak to many people here who have “adopted” families. They accompany them to get their papers, help them with their language, housing, anything they need. One family member of an Artemis has an entire family over every night for dinner.

The music class meets twice every week, in a medium-sized room designated for extracurricular activities. When I arrived, the donated instrument were just being unpacked and I helped tune. There were about 25 children, from age 6-18, in the class. And, a lot of drop-ins (parents, one toddler who wobbled in every time the door became ajar).  Violin, viola, cello and guitar were available. The teachers are a mix of volunteers and very lightly compensated musicians. What this program needs most of all is funding – it is run on a shoe-string, by big-hearted people, but it needs materials, trained teachers, and the ability for some students to have one-on-one lessons.

The lesson was as structured as it could possibly have been – but anyone who has experience with teaching will know that teaching such a wide range of instruments and ages simultaneously is a daunting (if not completely impossible) task. At least initially, smaller instrument-specific and age-specific groups must be offered – large group activities can also happen, but without individual care, the program will struggle. I stepped in at one point and lead the group in simple, fun exercises – we laughed and practiced “solo” concerts of a bow, to enthusiastic applause.

stephen roe refugees

As I left that day, I was overwhelmed by both the beauty of the mission and the futility. I was unable to sleep that night – I sent emails to Pamela at 2,4, and 6 AM.  I was in turn depressed and invigorated with ideas. The day after I went, I was speaking to a friend from Corvallis who brought me back up to my optimistic self. She said – “Anthea – any moment you and others can give to this community is so important – don’t worry about the problems, just go and do whatever you can”.  I will go back again next week, with a stack of materials I have prepared, and a sheet of my favorite stickers.

Please take a look at the website – – they are desperately low on funding – and help if you can. I would love to see lessons offered and materials available to these bright, lovely children who have been through so much, and who are only at the beginning of this challenging transition.

From the 5* Lebrecht Album of the Week:

The symbiosis of singer and pianist is evident throughout, nowhere more so than in the desperate appeal of Ständchen, where mutual anticipation alternates with appropriate deference. XX, who is 50, is not a newcomer. But I don’t think I have enjoyed a baritone Schubert album more since… oh, since Bryn Terfel’s debut on DG, and this will bear many returns for relistening.

Read the full review here and here.

And here, too.

schubert on the beach2

The pianist Israela Margalit, now an accomplished playwright, has written a short story based on real events in her early life in Munich.

Recommended weekend reading: click here.

israela margalit

Oper Frankfurt is putting on the German premiere of a recent Swiss opera, Der Sandmann.

They are keen for world media to attend.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to invite you to the opening night (or a later performance) of the first new

production in Oper Frankfurt’s 2016/17 season:

Sunday September 18th 2016, at 18.00hrs in the Opera House

Premiere / First performance in Germany


Opera in ten scenes by Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini (*1971)

based on motifs from the story by the same name (1815) by E.T.A. Hoffmann

Text by Thomas Jonigk

Performed in German with German surtitles

oper frankfurt